Staying Power & Staying Home

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Staying Power Ensemble Posed In Front of a Painted Mural on the side of a brick wall

Program Overview

Staying Power/Staying Home is a youth-driven movement for housing justice and belonging through arts activism. Over the last 4 years, SP has built a core leadership team of 10 Young Leaders from Ypsilanti (ages 18-22) who participated as members during high school and returned as facilitators- they are now working with the next generation of Staying Power and Staying Home teens to provide community empowerment through writing and performance. Through workshops, live performances, publications, and a podcast, Staying Power works to address gentrification and preserve Black and Indigenous history, culture and art in Washtenaw County while Staying Home provides a virtual arts respite for teens constricted by economic, transportation or disability barriers.


Our dream is to create a county-wide, diverse, youth-driven but intergenerational collective of artist-activists committed to defending affordable housing and preserving Black, Indigenous and Latinx art and culture. We believe that while naming the problem is essential, it will take radical imagination to create and implement solutions. Who knows what is needed to address gentrification more than those currently impacted by displacement due to rising rent? Staying Power/Staying Home provides arts, advocacy and leadership opportunities via education around housing, economic and disability justice centering BIPOC and Queer youth. 

  • 2022 Vision & Next Steps
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    1. Staying Power meets on Thursday nights from 6:30 - 8:30 in Ypsi with a group of 10 teen participants who have been added to the Young Leaders and those who were involved with SP during the 2020/2021 school year.  We are working together to produce a live show on May 14-15, 2022 at YCHS in partnership with their choir. The show will use theater, poetry, music and movement to explore the impacts of gentrification and push for housing justice in Ypsi.
    2. Select Staying Power youth also host a monthly podcast recorded at Grove Studios on Friday evenings- through the podcast we interview local leaders, elders and historians to uplift their work and learn about the political landscape of Washtenaw County.
    3. Staying Home, the new component of our program, is a free, youth-led movement for disability/economic justice that grew out of lessons learned from the Covid shutdown: innovative virtual spaces can create a community/creativity  environment for those who cannot attend in person programming due to physical, economic, transportation and/or mental health barriers.
    4. Staying Home is also hosting a virtual Visiting Artist series that will bring area and national poets to further provide encouragement and inspiration to the youth of both programs and will be open to other young poets/creators in Washtenaw County and beyond.
    5. SP and SH youth will collaborate to create an anthology of their writing around themes of home, belonging, housing justice and racial justice that will be professionally printed. They will also work on a new website mapping effects of colonization and gentrification on Washtenaw County. These education resources will be available to those in Washtenaw County and beyond.
    6. Staying Home is building out a network of similar programs throughout the country to work on new ways of thinking about being in community across barriers.
    7. In June 2022, both  programs will culminate with a retreat in Idlewild, a historically Black town in Northern Michigan. We will spend the weekend reflecting, writing, and meeting with elders to learn best practices for preserving land and culture.
  • History
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    In 2008, Donté Clark (former Richmond Poet Laureate) and Molly Raynor co-founded RAW Talent, a youth performing arts program in Richmond, CA. In 2017, the year that Molly returned to Michigan to coordinate the Literary Arts program at the Neutral Zone in Ann Arbor, a group of residents in Richmond created a coalition called “Staying Power” to defend affordable housing. When Donté visited Michigan in 2017, he felt a deep connection between Ypsi and Richmond- both are small, historically Black, family-oriented cities with rich cultural histories of art and activism. This is when the dream was born: to build off of the work happening in both communities and connect young artist-activists across the country for a cultural exchange. 

    In 2018, with support from the NEA and in partnership with the RYSE Center in Richmond, Staying Power launched with a retreat in Richmond led by Donté Clark (the Artistic Director for the first iteration) and Ciera-Jevae Gordon (our Richmond coordinator) and continued with weekly virtual workshops. The Richmond teens came to Ypsi in December 2019 for a joint production that they performed for a sold out audience of 500 people at Ypsi High to culminate their year-long exchange. 

    In 2020, Ypsi’s Staying Power branch received grants from Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation and Rackham Public Scholars to continue the program with a focus on local history and housing justice arts advocacy. As Covid hit, Staying Power Ypsi continued in the 2020/2021 school year through a weekly workshop series pn “documentary poetics” led by visiting artists Carlina Duan and Bryan Byrdlong. Youth learned to interview community members and write poetry inspired by their stories. They also launched a youth-hosted podcast, featuring local leaders and bigger name poets across the country. 

    During the summer of 2021, the Young Leaders held a retreat at Idlewild, a historically Black resort community, where they learned about its history and decided to produce another production for May 2022. This fall, Staying Power held auditions and selected 10 new teens to join our cast for the upcoming live production and Staying Home launched programming as well.

  • Podcast
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    Over the last two years, Staying Power has built a core leadership team of 15 teens in Ypsilanti. In this coming year, these young leaders will meet with community organizers to learn about the political landscape of Washtenaw County and align their artistic projects with current policy work. This podcast is one of those projects. Through community dialogs, elder interviews, memory-mapping, and more, young leaders will capture the stories of our community and archive Black, Indigenous and Latinx history, culture and art in Washtenaw County. Listen below!

  • Book, Poetry, Videos
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  • Media and Press Coverage
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  • Staying Power/Staying Home Staff
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    • Staying Power Program Staff


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      Naima Peterson

      Naima is a 18 year old Detroit born and raised poet who moved to Ann Arbor her freshman year of high school. Moving into a mainly white based environment brought out her activism and leadership. She competed in the poetry slam and got on the slam team her first time ever competing. She has performed many poems surrounding the LGBTQ+ community, BLM, mental health and police brutality. Naima hopes to make change through her poetry and bring the positive to light.

      Ciatta Tucker

      my name is ciatta tucker, and I’m 18. i am a slam poet and a black creative. my work centers around blackness, social justice, and the world around me.

      "to me staying power is more like a movement and community of like minded youth who want to make a change in their neighborhoods. it’s important to me because before, i felt like i didn’t have a group of people to relate to when it comes to housing justice and other social justice topics."


      Shane Collins

      I am a poet, rapper, singer (kinda), future playwright, and actor. I want my words, my art, my voice to make change for me, and whoever has helped me get to this point. Stay blessed.

      "Staying Power is vital in my life. I quietly didn't recognize the gentrification happening in my neighborhood. My friends that I spent near a decade with had to leave because the rent got too high. No one else is going to make the change we need to, so we gotta do it ourselves, however we can."

      Venus Pasha

      I am 18, I am a poet, founder and facilitator of SARE, a social justice activist and a black creative. 

      “Staying power is important to me because I feel it’s important to fight for and support the community that raised and poured into. You wouldn’t turn your back on family when they have an issue, so why turn your back on the community when they need help ?” 

      Ashanti Kenyatta Campbell

      I’m Ashanti Campbell and I’m a writer. I write poems, music, plays and more. I would like my writing to make change in my community as well as communities around me.  

      “In order to fix a problem like gentrification both the victims and beneficiaries must first acknowledge the problem. By notifying people on this problem staying power acts at the first step to change the problem.”


    • Staying Home Facilitators
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      Amelia deGuzman

      Amelia deGuzman is a writer and spoken-word poetry performer, as well as a multimedia visual artist. After a decade-long gap in her education, she returned to Mercer County Community College in the Spring of 2020, before transferring to Smith College in 2022. She is the founder and editor in chief of Your Stories, a student-run literary magazine focused on change work in the realm of discrimination and racial injustice. Her writing has been published in The Kelsey Review, The College VOICE, and featured with Trenton’s JKC Gallery. 

      Kyndall Flowers

      Kyndall Flowers is a poet and student of all things green.  She was published (along with Dylan Gilbert and Zaphra Stupple) in joy, despite (Red Beard Press, 2017) and was one of the first Literary Arts interns at the Neutral Zone.  She is also a graduate of InSurrealLife, run by Shira Erlichman, and is currently crafting her art and plant magic in Harlem, NY
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      Ain't Afraid 

      Sakinah and Zakiyyah, Aka Straingth and WiZdumb, make up the  movement & girl band, Aint Afraid. Ain’t Afraid is dedicated to empowering, inspiring, and motivating people all over the world. From spoken word, to singing, songwriting, rap, and other creative means, this multi-talented duo uses their talents in the arts, media, and other creative platforms to project this mission in ways that people will listen. 

      Maria Theocharakis

      Maria Koi Theocharakis is an educator, spoken word poet, visual artist, community supporter and youth advocate hailing from Tampa, Florida, currently residing in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Maria is an alumni of the Tampa legacy “Heard Em Say”. Maria is a published poet and a member of the 6th ranking poetry team in the south as of 2017, the “Misfits”.  Maria uses the seeds given to them to further empower youth in the Ypsilanti area through spoken word poetry and art.

      Cozine A. Welch, Jr.

      Cozine A. Welch, Jr. is a formerly incarcerated poet and writer. A
      staff member of the University of Michigan’s Prisoner Creative Arts Project (PCAP), he now teaches at the University of Michigan as a co-instructor and is currently pursuing his degree in English at Eastern Michigan University.

      Molly Pershin Raynor

      Molly Pershin Raynor (she/her) is an educator, organizer and poet. She co-founded RAW Talent with Donté Clark, now the RYSE Center’s Performing Arts Program, which serves youth in Richmond, California. Her work is highlighted in the documentary film, "Romeo Is Bleeding" which was on Netflix. Molly won a Jefferson Award for Public Service and a Teachers 4 Social Justice Award for her work in the Bay Area. Three years ago, Molly moved home to Michigan where she is currently getting her Masters in Social Work from Eastern Michigan University and helping coordinate Staying Power. She is the Community Manager at 4.0 Schools. Her poetry has been featured on NPR and published in several literary magazines including Vinyl, The Rumpus, and Porkbelly Press. Molly comes from a long line of Jewish storytellers and plumbers who taught her how to bend words and weld new worlds.


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      Ciera-Jevae "CiCi" Gordon

      RYSE Media, Arts, & Culture Program Manager

      Richmond Artist

      As the Media, Arts, & Culture (MAC) Program Manager, CiCi mentors and supports her team as they collectively elevate all art forms within RYSE. CiCi is passionate about creating spaces where youth are comfortable so they can challenge themselves and their peers in their art while building community. CiCi has worked at the African American Resource and Cultural Center at UC Santa Cruz for 4 years coordinating study jams and the Black graduation. She has taught poetry at the Santa Cruz county jail. CiCi has a BA in Sociology, has received the Dean's Award for her chapbook Incarcerated Words, All Campus Honors Awards, and placed 5th in the nation as part of the Root Slam Team. She has been on four national slam teams and currently serves as one of Richmond's Poets Laureate.

      "The title, “Concrete, Not Wood,” comes from an Oakland native artist who created a skate park in the heart of Oakland. He shared with us that it was important to use concrete, not wood, because wood eventually fades, but concrete stays. While wood is decomposable, unable to last, easy to rot in rough conditions, concrete is forever, and so is the power of our youth. Both cities are connected across the country through our collective rage and our fight for liberation of people of color and our cities."

      Donté Clark, Staying Power Artistic Director

      Staying Power Artistic Director

      Richmond Artist

      Donté Clark is a poet and emcee who is consistently performing across schools, conferences, poetry readings and Hip Hop shows globally. He is the former Poet Laureate of Richmond, CA, and was accepted to the VONA program, a prestigious week-long conference for writers of color. Donté’s primary focus is ending the violence that has plagued his community and impacted him deeply—he uses his art and curriculum as a call to action. His quest to heal his community through art is the focus of the documentary “Romeo Is Bleeding” on Netflix. His appearance in films like award winning “Kicks” and the new web-series “The North Pole” only catch a glimpse of his creative reach. In the last several years, Donté hosted a town hall on gun violence in Richmond, wrote and staged two plays, “Té’s Harmony” and “Po’Boys Kitchen,” and published a collection of his poetry, “KnowFreedom.” He continues to spark critical dialogue and encourages everyone to do the same.

      Carlina Duan

      Carlina Duan is a poetry workshop co-facilitator for Staying Power. She is the author of the poetry collection I" Wore My Blackest Hair" (Little A, 2017), and Alien Miss (University of Wisconsin Press, 2021). She currently teaches at the University of Michigan, where she is also a Ph.D. student in the Joint Program in English and Education. She has a sweet tooth.

      Bryan Byrdlong

      Bryan Byrdlong is a Haitian/African-American writer from Chicago, Illinois. He recently graduated from Vanderbilt University where he received an undergraduate English/Creative Writing degree. In high school, Bryan was fortunate enough to be apart of Chicago’s Louder than a Bomb poetry slam competition. While at Vanderbilt, he was published in the Vanderbilt Review and was the co-recipient of the Merrill Moore Award for Poetry upon graduation. Most recently, his poem ',JENTRƏFƏˈKĀSH(Ə)N' was published in the Nashville Review.


  • Current Partnerships, Sponsors & Resources

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    We are grateful to our sponsors Engage @ EMU, Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation and Rackham Public Scholars, as well as our community partners- the Student Advocacy Center, Grove Studios and Ryse Center.

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